The English Home of Mr. Timothy Dalton, B. A. : Timothy Dalton in the Colony

Tradition avers that the minister came to this country in company with his wife, Ruth, and their young son, Timothy. We believe that his sister, Deborah, was also one of the party. It may have been in 1636; but, more likely, in 1637.1 Dr. Cotton Mather includes "Mr. Timothy Dalton, of Hampston," in his catalogue of "near fifty divines, considerable in the churches of New-England"; placing him among those who "were in the actual exercise of their ministry when they left England, and were the instruments of bringing the gospel into this wilderness."2 He was first settled in Dedham, being admitted to freemanship on July 18, 1637, and becoming the thirteenth subscriber to the town covenants. The local records show caution on the part of the "ins" when they received him:3 "Upon some agitacion concrneing Mr. Daltons Joyneing wth us, It is consented unto, upon ye manifestacion of his Resolucion to sit downe wth us in a Civill4 condicion wthout further expectacions, provided yt he bringeth a crtifficate from ye Magestrats. . . . Mr. Timothy Dalton & John Morse produceing crtifficates5 from ye Magetrats, subscribed unto our covenants accordingly."

In other words, Mr. Dalton, a clergyman who had been harried out of England because of his inconformity, might remain in the colony as a layman, if he would; but it must be "wthout further expectacions" of a pulpit and congregation.

We shall imagine his surprise. In the old home he had been "a great stickler for ye transporting of those people that should goe over unto Newe England."6 That was indeed the beginning of his dispute with the government. Now, upon the threshold of the New World and a new life, he finds himself in quarantine. He may not even stay in the colony permanently without the approval of the magistrates, nor obtain the privileges of full citizenship anywhere therein, without the consent of the freemen of that plantation in which he shall desire to "sit downe." Massachusetts Bay was a close corporation. As the freemen were always churchmen, and, having the exclusive right of suffrage, elected the magistrates, it is evident that such questions of residence and membership were practically decided by the church.7 Captain Johnson stated the case frankly when he said: "The Souldiers of Christ in N. E. . . . are resolved (the Lord willing) to keepe the government our God hath given us . . . Our Magistrates, being conscious of ruling for Christ, dare not admit of any bastardly brood to be nurst up upon their tender knees, neither will any Christian of a sound judgement vote for any but such as earnestly contend for the Faith."8

With equal candor, Governor Winthrop wrote, on another occasion, that the new church was "well furnished already with able Ministers, whose spirits they knew"; and why should they run the risk of "calling in one whose spirit they knew not"?9 Mr. Dalton's ill-luck in this matter was the more remarkable because his brother was one of the charter members of the new town, all of whom must have realized that "their chief poverty was poverty of men." But the colony was engaged in a frenzied struggle with the so-called "Antinomians,"10 under the leadership of Mr. Wheelwright and Mrs. Hutchinson; and prudent citizens were timid about any increase of the clerical party in their midst. A Geneva cloak and band meant a possible vote for the heresy.

This year (1637) was truly a busy one for the Saints in and about Boston. For fighting among themselves, they prepared by frequent fasting, humiliation, and prayer.11 Mr. Wheelwright had been "disfranchised and banished."12 All was made ready for the final attack upon Mrs. Hutchinson. The Synod of September, 1637, denounced no less than eighty-two "opinions -- some blasphemous, others erroneous, and all unsafe"; besides nine "unwholesome expressions." This was called "magnifying the grace of God"; and John Cotton, "the father and glory of Boston," courteously sent word to the brethren in England that "if there be any there that would strive for grace, they should come hither." Who shall blame William Blaxton, of Boston Neck, for refusing to be "under the lords-brethren"?13

It has not been disclosed what part, if any, Timothy Dalton took in these controversies. While "in a Civill condicion," he could have had no minister's seat in a church council. Nor is there any record of the removal of such disability. Yet it is obvious that the terms of his settlement in Hampton must have been previously arranged. So soon as he reached the new home -- and he was certainly there on or before June 7, 163914 -- he was elected to be the teacher of its church. Of the "considerable number" of settlers who accompanied him thither, it is not unlikely that some had been "his countrymen and acquaintance in old England.15 Generous grants from the town lands were promptly made to both himself and his son.16 Stephen Bachilor was already installed as pastor of the society. There is a doubt as to the precise character of these twin officers -- pastor and teacher -- in the primitive Congregational system. Perhaps they had their origin in the passage: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." It was said at the time that in theory "the difference between them lyes in this: that the [teacher] is principally to attend upon points of Knowledge and Doctrine, though not without Application; and the [pastor] to points of Practice, though not without Doctrine; . . . as Experience also showeth that one man's gift is more doctrinall and for points of Knowledge, and another's more exhortatory and for points of Practice."17 Although their prescribed duties were unlike, yet, as was desired from time to time, each minister assumed the special work of the other, without objection on the part of the people. But New Englanders were too thrifty to continue, beyond the first generation, this extravagance of paying two men for one man's labor.

Little is known of Mr. Dalton's life in Hampton. None of his sermons have been preserved. It was then the custom to preach without notes.18 He was acceptable to the elders and magistrates in Boston. If he sympathized with Wheelwright -- and he did -- he was so discreet as to avoid rebuke from headquarters. Governor Winthrop upheld him in the contention with Bachiler. He took a prominent part in civil affairs. On one occasion he was sent, in company with Simon Bradstreet and Hugh Peters, to quell disturbances in Dover.19 That he was loved by his congregation is manifest. When they drove out Bachiler they were willing to have Dalton occupy the vacant place for five or six years, and until his infirmities compelled him to resign it. During the whole time, however, he retained his original office of teacher; and he continued therein after the coming of a new pastor, and until his own death in 1661, at the alleged age of about 84 years.20

All his contemporaries except Mr. Bachiler, speak of the beauty of his private life in that humble country village. Captain Johnson pictures him as "the reverend, grave and gracious Mr. Doulton," and thereupon bursts into song:21

"Doulton doth teach perspicuously and sound,
With wholesome truths of Christ thy flock dost feed,
Thy honour with thy labour doth abound,
Age crownes thy head in righteousnesse, proceed
To batter downe, root up, and quite destroy
All Heresies and Errors, that draw back
Unto perdition, and Christ's folk annoy;
To warre for him thou weapons dost not lack:
Long dayes to see, that long'd for day to come
Of Babel's fall and Israel's quiet peace;
Thou yet maist live of dayes so great a sum
To see this work, let not thy warfare cease."

Better testimony than this in favor if Mr. Dalton is given by the town-books at the time of his decease, when they declare him to have been "a faithful and painfull22 labourer in God's vineyard"; still better by the preamble to the town's contract with Mr. Wheelwright in 1647, wherein the town acknowledges "the great paines and labours that the reverente and well beloved Mr. Tymothy Dalton have taken among them in the worke of the ministrie, even beyond his abilitie or strenght of nater."23 Most convincing of all are the envenomed lines of Stephen Bachiler himself, after the wrangle in the church society, when he wrote that it was "the Teacher (indeed) who hath don all and ben the cause of all the dishonour that hath accrew'd to God, shame to my selfe, and griefe to all God's people, by his irregular proceedings and abuse of power of the Church in his hand, by the major parte cleaveing to him, being his countrymen and acquaintance in old England."24 Whatever may have been the merits of the personal controversy between the two men, it appears from the pastor's own admission that "the major parte" of the people did "cleave" unto the teacher.

Besides his immediate Dalton connections, our minister had at least one other near kinsman in this "hideous wilderness". It was Mr. Henry Boad (Bode or Boade), a prominent resident of Saco, and later of Wells, in the province of Maine. In and by Mr. Boad's last will25 he appointed "my loving Cosson26 Mr Jon winthorpe Esqr and also my Cosson Tymothy Daulton Minister of Hampton" as and to be the overseers of the settlement of his estate. We are not aware that Mr. Dalton ever recognized the relationship in any way; but Governor Winthrop did endorse the words "Cosin Boad" upon a letter which the other had written to him.27 Examining the registers of Groton, in Suffolk, and Great Stambridge, in Essex, whence came, respectively, the governor and his first wife, we discover Henry Boad in the last-mentioned parish. Hence the inference that he was akin to Mistress Mary (Forth) Winthrop. In neither parish, however, is there any account of any early Dalton, and thus it is idle of us to conjecture on how the "cosson"-ship between Bode and the clergyman came about.

What was the nature of the tie between Timothy Dalton and John Wheelwright in the colony? Was it blood or sympathy or previous acquaintance? Dalton was made a freeman of Dedham at the very time when Wheelwright and his sister were expecting the arrival of English friends. The "agitacion," in the town meeting shows that some special objection must have been urged against him. Recruits were needed; but the Elect did not want him. Again, the brothers Dalton followed Wheelwright, and settled in an adjoining town of New Hampshire.28 Thirdly, Dalton's "cosson," Henry Boad, was one of Wheelwright's adherents in his northern exile. Lastly, Dalton had much to do with the calling of Wheelwright to the vacant pastorate, after the exclusion of Stephen Bachiler.

Mr. Dalton left a large estate; that is to say, large for the period. Some of it may have been brought by him from England. The public "rates" for his ministry in Hampton were paid with the usual irregularity in such matters. The largest salary ever promised him was £40 per year. But the town had been liberal in its gifts of land, which, after the ministerial fashion of the day, he probably cultivated with his own hands.29 By his last will30 he gave the whole of his property, real and personal, unto his widow, with the exception of fifty acres of land which he devised "unto my loving Cosson [nephew] Sam'll Dalton," and two hundred pounds, in money, which were bequeathed "unto my loving Brother Philemon Dalton and to my loving Cossin Samuell Dalton His Sonn."

In the year 1657 he had given, by three several deeds of conveyance,31 his farm of three hundred acres (it being the same which was allotted to him by the town of Hampton in 1640) unto Jasper Blake, Nathaniel Bacheller [Bachiler], and "my loving kinsman Eman[uel] Hilliard,"32 in equal shares. There is reason for believing that Jasper Blake was his brother-in-law, and that Bacheller and Hilliard were nephews of his wife by marriage.

  1. We learn incidentally that ships left England almost daily for America; but no records of them, or of their passengers, remain. -- Hotton's Original Lists, Introd., xxxi.
  2. Mather's Magnalia (Hartford Ed.), I, 213.
  3. Dedham Records (reprint), 32.
  4. "Civill" was often used in the sense of secular, as when Milton wrote of "Religious and Civill Wisdome."
  5. These certificates were required by the Alien Law of May, 1637, which imposed heavy penalties upon towns and householders for the unauthorized entertainment of strangers. It was specially aimed at certain kinsfolk and friends of Mr. Wheelwright and Mrs. Hutchinson, who were expected to arrive from England in the summer of that year. -- Adams's Three Episodes of Massachusetts History, I, 458-460.
  6. See, post, under the title "The First Complaint Against Dalton."
  7. For example, the case of Mr. Wheelwright's two friends, who attempted to settle at Winnacunnet (page 3).
  8. Johnson's Wonder-working Providence, 112.
  9. Winthop's History, I, 201.
  10. "Oh, their boldness, pride, insolency, and alienations from their old and dearest friends; the disturbancies, divisions, contentions, they raised amongst us, both in church and state; and in families, setting division betwixt man and wife! . . . Now, the faithful ministers of Christ must have dung cast upon their faces, and be no better than legal preachers, Baal's priests, Popish factors, Scribes, Pharisees, and opposers of Christ himself." -- Thomas Welde's Short Story, Preface.
  11. Love's Fast and Thanksgiving Days of New England, pp. 118-125; Hosmer's Life of Young Sir Henry Vane, 55.
  12. Roger Williams said of his own banishment: "I was sorely tossed for one fourteen weekes, in a bitter winter season, not knowing what bread or bed did meane." -- Knowles's Memoirs, 395.
  13. Mather's Magnalia, I, 221.
  14. Dow's History of Hampton, 349.
  15. Ibid., pp. 11, 347.
  16. When the son died, the town transferred his lot to the father.
  17. Rev. Dr. Walker's History of the First Church in Hartford, 62; quoting from the Answer of the N.E. Brethren, to certain Inquiries made by Puritan divines in the old country.
  18. Byington's Puritan in England and New England, 153. Cotton Mather says that Mr. Warham of Windsor, Conn., was the first colonist to preach written sermons. -- Magnalia, I, 399.
  19. Dow's History of Hampton, pp. 346, 349.
  20. When apologizing for his inability to state the age of Mr. Thomas Walley, Cotton Mather says that the primitive Christians did call "the day of a saint's death by the name of their Natalitia." -- Magnalia, I, 547.
  21. Johnson's Wonder-working Providence, 134.
  22. Painfull: painstaking, industrious, busy, careful. -- "I think we have some as painfull magistrates as ever was in England." -- Latimer's Sermons, 142.
  23. Hampton Records.
  24. Dow's History of Hampton, 347.
  25. York Deeds, I, i, 6.
  26. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the word "cousin," in addition to its ordinary uses, was applied to both nephews and nieces. For example, in a statute (c. 35, §, I) of 19 Henry VII. (1503), "Robert Brews Squyer Cosyn and heire unto Sir Gilbert Debenham, . . . that is to say Sone of Elizabeth Brews sister to the said Sir Gilbert." Again, in Shakspere's line: "How now, brother? Where is my cousin, your son? -- Much Ado About Nothing, I, i, I.
  27. Massachusetts Historical Collections, 5th series, I, 358.
  28. Of Mrs. Hutchinson's friends and adherents, some went northward and founded the towns of Exeter and Hampton. -- Fiske's Beginnings of New England, pp. 119, 154. As early as 1645 several of the Exeter people removed to Hampton, and two years later Mr. Wheelwright followed them.
  29. John Cotton said, with grim humor, that "ministers and milk are the only cheap things in New England." Nearer our day Paster Ainsworth of Jaffrey, N. H., refused to accept an addition to his salary upon the ground that it was more than he could do to collect the sum already allotted to him.
  30. The original is preserved at Salem, Mass.
  31. A Booke of Records for the County of Northefolke in New England, I, pp. 112, 113.
  32. In the deed to Bacheller the kinsman is called "Manuell Hillard."